Our Centenary Celebrations
The start of the Centenary celebrations was on 7th September 2002 (the nearest to the date of the founding) when a highly successful Gala Club Night was held in The Athenaeum, attended by over 100 members and friends. This was a night when we entertained ourselves with numbers from shows from the past 100 years.
The April 2003 Centenary production of HMS Pinafore opened 100 years to the day after the Society's very first show, and in the same venue - the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. We have performed this Gilbert & Sullivan piece four times before (in 1903, 1929, 1962 (Diamond Jubilee production) and 1990). There was a Gala Opening Night with several of the audience in 1900s evening dress.
As a final social event for the Centenary Year, a reunion for past and present members took place on Friday 11th July at the Manor House Museum. On a warm summer's night, this turned out to be not only a totally successful occasion, but also a wonderful chance for many to catch up with old friends and to reminisce about past triumphs on the stage with the Society. Over 125 attended; previous members came from all parts of the country, and it was heartening to hear the exclamations of delight when, right on cue, a well-remembered face appeared at the top of the sweeping staircase that leads into the ballroom. There were archive books to look through and a display of past productions.
We managed to reunite several "old" casts, including - appropriately - Josephine, Ralph Rackstraw, and Captain Corcoran from the 1962 HMS Pinafore cast. The casts of plays performed at The Playhouse were most enthusiastic to find copies of the programmes - some with very artistic covers - and photographs of themselves in their younger days. A 'The Way We Were' display of photographs caused much amusement! A celebration cake incorporating the Society's logo was cut by Margaret Holt, the then President and Chairman, and Mr John Newton Banks Ashton, a sprightly 97-year-old whose parents were founder-members. This was a fitting end to our celebrations, and showed once again that belonging to the Society forges friendships that time cannot erase.